Venezuela news: Maduro greatly escalated his standoff with Guaid贸 –


Forces loyal to Venezuelan President Nicol谩s Maduro may have just committed one of their most brazen acts 鈥 one that threatens to plunge the country into even greater chaos.

On Thursday, Venezuela鈥檚 intelligence forces detained the chief of staff for Juan Guaid贸, the opposition leader who claims to be the country鈥檚 legitimate president and who is backed by the United States. In an overnight raid, they seized Roberto Marrero from his home shortly after also nabbing dozens of journalists and two state utility workers.

This is potentially a massive escalation by Maduro and could signal a new phase in his bid to maintain power despite America鈥檚 efforts.

Since January, the Trump administration, joined by governments in Latin America and Europe, has called for Venezuela鈥檚 dictator to step down, partly because the country has suffered an immense economic and humanitarian collapse during his rule. The US and others now recognize Guaid贸, the leader of the country鈥檚 opposition-controlled legislative body, as Venezuela鈥檚 rightful leader.

The US has already conveyed its displeasure with Marrero鈥檚 seizure, with National Security Adviser John Bolton noting hours later that the arrest 鈥渨ill not go unanswered.鈥

Guaid贸 also confirmed the raid on Twitter, calling for Marrero鈥檚 immediate release. And in a video posted by Sergio Vergara, an opposition official and Marrero鈥檚 neighbor, Vergara said his home also was raided. 鈥淭hey asked me if I knew where Roberto Marrero lived, which I didn鈥檛 respond to,鈥 he said.

Trump administration officials and allied lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), have consistently warned that any efforts to arrest Guaid贸 would be met with a swift response. That may help explain why Maduro has so far left Guaid贸 alone.

But going after Guaid贸鈥檚 No. 2 is still a serious escalation, and it shows just how defiant the dictator remains.

鈥淚 think the detention of Marrero shows that the Maduro government is becoming more willing to start targeting Guaid贸 and his closest allies, and that whatever Maduro previously feared from doing so, he may no longer fear as much,鈥 Timothy Gill, a Venezuela expert at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, told me.

That would make sense: One of Maduro鈥檚 biggest concerns is security forces 鈥 mainly the military 鈥 turning on him and joining Guaid贸鈥檚 side. That hasn鈥檛 happened yet. Instead, they may be responding to Maduro鈥檚 call last week to begin 鈥渁ctive resistance鈥 by taking provocative, physical actions against Guaid贸鈥檚 team.

In other words, despite American sanctions and outright calls for him to step down, Maduro may be more emboldened than ever.

鈥淗e might believe the time has passed for a serious uprising and that Guaido鈥檚 attempt to overthrow him has generally failed,鈥 Gill said.

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